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|Volume 10 |Issue 30 | August 05, 2011 ||
London in the Sun
Cloudy grey skies, umbrellas up, warding off persistent raindrops, people rushing, shoulders hunched, getting on with the business of life — this is a typical scene in London on a winter’s day. No one has the time to look or stop or smile at one another and there is always a sea of grey and black coats on the bustling streets. But gradually the clouds dissipate and the sun comes out to play and London is transformed. The black and grey disappear giving way to bursts of colour, people walk with a smile on their face and even have time to exchange niceties about the weather and exclaim how wonderful summer in London can be. In countries where the climate is generally cold, the sun is still greeted with unbridled enthusiasm and delight and it never ceases to amaze me at the marked change in people's attitude the moment the sun makes an appearance.
As I sit at my desk, I find myself distracted as I can hear the sounds of children laughing and shouting as they play in the communal garden outside. Their cheerful squeals as they spray each other with their plastic water guns makes me smile and I can see them running, weaving through the bushes and trees chasing one another. In contrast the adults are content sitting soaking up the warm rays of the sun, some lying on the grass looking up at the clear blue sky, some sitting on chairs engrossed in a book while others take the opportunity to catch up on some sleep. In the distance someone is starting up a barbeque, the smell of burning charcoal wafting through my open window. The trees outside in shades of emerald shimmer in the sunlight, swaying to some imaginary music and it is rather magical. This is the same garden I see all year round and I love the fact that each season paints a different scene with its unique charm but in summer everything is so much more vibrant and alive.
As I walk down the street I see the local pubs full to capacity with people spilling out onto the streets taking pleasure in standing in the open air with glasses in their hands, some even sitting on the pavement while they chat with their friends and colleagues. Winter would have found them huddling inside to keep warm with only the smokers braving the cold outside. The restaurants and cafes lining the street seem to be doing a roaring trade too, I can hardly see any unoccupied tables. Most of them have taken advantage of the warm weather and opened their doors and French windows and set up tables outside to allow their customers to dine al fresco and enjoy the sun to the full. The sight of the men in their t-shirts and half sleeves shirts and the women in their cool and colourful summer dresses is a refreshing sight. I could have been walking down the street in Italy or Spain. There is something quite festive about the atmosphere.
I think back to when I was growing up and I cannot recall there being so many cafes or having seen so many restaurants with tables on the sidewalk — this has become more and more common over the years or maybe as a child I never really noticed. What I do remember are the ice cream vans that used to drive down our road on hot summers days, the music tinkling from its loudspeaker announcing its arrival. Those days were few and far between. Nowadays, I see these colourful vans dotted around the city, especially in the residential areas parked on street corners, sometimes more than one on the same stretch of road promising a treasure-trove of ice cream within. The sight still conjures up pleasant memories of my childhood.
A few days ago my husband and I decided to take advantage of the glorious weather (while it lasts) and venture to Regents Park with our youngest daughter. Unsurprisingly, it appeared that hundreds of other people had the same idea as us and the park was heaving when we arrived, but that did not stop us from enjoying the afternoon with a little picnic on the grass, a trip around the small manmade lake on a paddle boat and of course an ice cream cone on our way home. Sometimes the small pleasures in life are definitely the best.
Over the years the summers appear to have become hotter and the drawback is that the houses here are not equipped to deal with the heat. Often nights can become unbearably stuffy and uncomfortable. A few years ago, like many people we found ourselves rushing out to buy portable fans for the bedrooms as it was nigh on impossible to sleep at night. If I recall quite a few of the shops were sold out and had to order more fans as they had not accounted for the huge increase in demand. Someone even suggested that we install air conditioning and at the time I had laughed the idea, now it does not seem as farfetched.
Summer in London always makes me think of tennis and Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, cricket at Lords, school holidays and funnily enough hay fever. I find myself walking with a spring in my step and a purpose to my stride as I feel the sun on my face and a gentle breeze caressing my arms and nothing seems impossible. It is a wonderful feeling.
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